Internet giants plan 24-hour test flight of IPv6

12 Jan 2011

Google says that along with internet giants like Facebook and Yahoo!, it will run a 24-hour test flight of the next generation of internet protocol – that’s IPv6 – on 8 June this year.

The launch day has been dubbed World IPv6 Day.

Enabling IPv6 on large websites like Google and Facebook for 24 hours is considered a crucial phase in the transition to IPv6.

According to Google, IPv4 addresses are expected to run out in 2011. But at present only 0.2pc of internet users have IPv6 connectivity.

Google’s chief internet evangelist Vint Cerf – widely regarded as the founding father of the internet – helped to get the ball rolling on today’s internet when he chose a 32-bit address for an experiment in packet network interconnection while working at ARPA.

As well as working on an interplanetary internet for NASA, Cerf is one of the driving forces behind Google’s IPv6 efforts.

The 32-bit addresses that we all use today have served the internet well over the last 20 to 30 years, but IPv6 represents the only truly long-term solution.

Google has been providing IPv6 support to YouTube, as well as helping ISPs enable Google over IPv6 by default.

“Together with major web companies, such as Facebook and Yahoo!, we will enable IPv6 on our main websites for 24 hours,” explained Lorenzo Colitti, a network engineer at Google.

A crucial phase for the future of the internet

“This is a crucial phase in the transition, because while IPv6 is widely deployed in many networks, it’s never been used at such a large scale before.

“We hope that by working together with a common focus, we can help the industry prepare for the new protocol, find and resolve any unexpected issues, and pave the way for global deployment,” Colitti said.

He said that internet users themselves don’t have to do anything special to prepare for World IPv6 Day.

“Our current measurements suggest that the vast majority (99.95pc) of users will be unaffected. However, in rare cases, users may experience connectivity problems, often due to misconfigured or misbehaving home network devices.

“Over the coming months, we will be working with application developers, operating system vendors and network device manufacturers to further minimise the impact and provide testing tools and advice for users.

“Changing the language spoken by every device on the internet is a large task, but it’s essential to ensure the future of an open and robust internet for decades to come,” Colitti added.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years